Mantua. When I hear the name, I think of a place of banishment, possibly a dusty trailer park in the Mohave Desert. Thanks, Baz Luhrmann! While Shakespeare never traveled to Italy, he chose this place for Romeo’s banishment after killing Tybalt.
Mantua is a city in the region of Lombardy that is closest to both the Veneto and Emilia Romagna. The region around the city is also known as Mantua or Mantova. It is far from being a desert and, hey if you want to banish me there…go right ahead! They have Lambrusco, so I don’t mind!
Susannah of Avvinaire leads The Italian Food Wine & Travel Group on our exploration of Lambrusco this month. She has definite expertise here. You should check out her preview post “June Celebrations with a Glass of Lambrusco”
We will be gathering on Twitter on Saturday, June 5th to discuss Lambrusco! Join us at 8 am PT following the hashtag #ItalianFWT to add to the conversation. You can scroll to the bottom for links to my colleagues’ pieces.
When I heard that the Italian Food Wine and Travel Group was diving into Lambrusco I was definitely on board. I enjoy Lambrusco, but good Lambrusco can be hard to find. The only place I had been able to locate Lambrusco was the bottle shelf at Trader Joe’s. I wanted to up my Lambrusco Game.
I had met Sheila with Vero online late last year. She imports wine and gourmet foods from Italy and Spain among other places, bringing in products from small producers that might otherwise never be seen outside their immediate area.
The wines I ordered from Vero are not from the region most thought of for Lambrusco. Emilia-Romagna is the typical region for this wine, much of it coming from the Province of Modena. Our wine comes from a little further north, across the border into Lombardy and the Mantova Province, where you find the city of Mantua.
Settled as early as 2000BC this city on the Mincio River later created lakes to surround the city like a moat.
The Palazzo Ducal is a city-palace and its mirror reflection graces the lakes. The complex was built throughout the centuries and now houses the Ducal Palace Museum, Italy’s biggest architectural museum.
Really, this doesn’t look like such a bad spot to be banished to.
San Benedetto Po and the Polirone Abbey
If you head further south and cross the Po River you come upon the city of San Benedetto Po. The Polirone Abbey here was founded in 1003 taking its name from the Po and Lirone Rivers that met at the Abbey. Matilde di Canossa founded a library at the Abbey and was buried at the monastery.
Wine has been made here since at least the 11th century. This is the region for Lambrusco Mantovano.
South of the city of San Benedetto Po the land opens up and you will find Azienda Agricola Bugno Martino.
Giuseppe and Raffaella together run this family farm and produce Lambrusco Mantovano. They respect the land and farm naturally with biodynamic and organic principles. Farmers first, they see taking care of the land as a privilege.
On their 9 hectares they grow 3 varieties of Lambrusco; Salamino, Ancellotta, and Grappello Ruberti.
“Lambrusco” means “wild grape” in Italian and there are multiple varieties of Lambrusco that were likely all domesticated from wild local vines. Giuseppe and Raffaella love this wine, it’s wildness, intensity, and elegance.
We opened 2 of their Lambruscos, the 2019 Rosso Matilde and the 2018 Essentia, that we ordered from Vero.
Rosso Matilde 2019 Bugno Martino Lambrusco Mantovano IGP
Bugno Martino named this wine as a tribute to Matilde di Canossa, who had such an influence as a female leader in this region in the 12th century. Sheila wrote a wonderful piece on her history and contributions that you can find here.
This wine is a blend of Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Ancellotta and is made in the Charmant method. It spends 4 months in stainless steel.
The Rosso Matilde pours a deep frothy ruby. On the nose, there was blackberry, black cherry, bramble, dried herb, soy, and a little smoke. It smells “wild”.
On the nose, it was medium intensity, but when you take a sip, the wine explodes with flavor. The fruit notes bursting through with the more subtle savory notes in the background. This wine is dry, don’t confuse it with the semi-sweet Cold Duck of the 70s.
12% abv – $20.99 via Vero
Essentia 2018 Bugno Martino Lambrusco Mantovano IGP
This Lambrusco is made in the ancestral method with wild yeast. Bugno Martino says this wine is “deeply linked to traditions and origins”.
The ancestral method predates Methode Champenoise. This ancient method stops the initial fermentation before it is complete, typically by chilling the wine. It is then put into bottle where it completes its fermentation trapping the CO2 in the bottle for those bubbles.
Sheila had prepped me for umami with this wine and she was so right. The first thing that hit my nose was bread dough, followed by red cherry and cherry preserves. Fresh green herbs were followed by smoke and soy. In my mouth, the umami hit first with soy and smoke. Behind that came the fruit, which was darker on my palate than on the nose and the herbs here were more savory and dried.
100% Lambrusco Salamino this wine ferments in bottle for 12 months.
11% abv – 24.99 via Vero
Riso alla Pilota
What to pair? I contacted Sheila at Vero, who had already put this question to Giuseppe. Without hesitation, he responded Riso alla Pilota. This is a simple dish of rice and sausage, that is traditional for Mantova, where there are more pigs than people. We paired this traditional dish with the traditionally inspired Essentia.
Giuseppe shared his recipe: Rice is carefully cooked to al dente and mixed with sausage cooked in butter and garlic, then it is tossed with grated parmesan. This dish is simple, hearty, delicious, and pairs perfectly with the wines. It was especially delicious with the umami notes in the Essentia.
You can find the recipe on the Vero site.
Pizza with Lambrusco, you can’t go wrong
Sheila had also suggested pizza with sausage, so I made homemade pizza, making my own pizza dough. We topped our pizzas with a mixture of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and a little fig jam for sweetness. Dabs of ricotta came next, sausage (which I partially pre-cooked), chopped sage, a four-cheese pizza blend, and more sage.
We paired our pizza with the Rosso Matilde and the sweetness of the fig jam played nicely off the bright fruit in the wine.
If you want to taste these wines, Sheila has offered a discount code for 10% off! Drop me a message for the code!!
Grab a bottle and banish yourself “virtually” to Mantua.
#ItalianFWT and wines to celebrate Lambrusco Day on June 21st!
As I mentioned, there are many types of Lambrusco and I am sure that the Italian Food Wine and Travel group has covered many of them. Read on for more great Lambrusco, then grab a bottle to celebrate Lambrusco Day on June 21st!
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Cantina Paltrinieri Radice Lambrusco di Sorbara 2018 for #WorldLambruscoDay”
- Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on the Farm posts “A Dry Lambrusco?! Well, yes please”
- Nicole Ruiz Hudson from Somms Table adds “The Lighter Side of Lambrusco”
- Pinny Tam from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings brings “A Dry Lambrusco from Riunite with One-Person Shabu-shabu Dinner“
- Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click! writes “Classic Aperitivo from Emilia-Romagna”
- Lynn Gowdy from Savor the Harvest says “Time for Lambrusco”
- Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley from Wine Predator suggests “Celebrate Summer with a Dry RED Sparkling Wine: Lambrusco to the Rescue!“
- Deanna Kang from Asian Test Kitchen showcases, “A Gluten-Free Brunch Paired with Lini Labrusca Wines”
- Terri Oliver Steffes from Our Good Life joins with “5 Things I Learned about Lambrusco and the Best Food Pairings “
- Susannah at Avvinare will showcase “Versatile Lambrusco, A Wine For Every Mood”
Sources and Resources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.